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Practices related to the Viet beliefs in the Mother Goddesses of Three Realms! What should you do in the evening in Hanoi? Would you like to explore Folk culture? After a few days visiting Hanoi, visitors may like to see something different, something is unique just being held in Vietnam? Outside the usual scope of performances tourists attend – mostly water puppetry – exists the Viet Theater’s artistic interpretation of “Lên Đồng” or “Hầu Đồng”, a traditional ritual in which a medium is possessed by several deities. Tứ Phủ – The Four Palace show is one of the latest shows in Hanoi that has been nurtured, idealized and arranged for 4 years before officially presented in late February 2016 in Cong Nhan Theatre which is three-minute walk to Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam.

“The four palaces” or Tu Phu Performance was inspired by the ritual of the spiritual medium ship (Len Dong) of the Mother Religion believing in The Mother Goddess who brings about favorable weather, happiness and fullness to people.

What does Four Palaces mean?

Vietnam is already home to world intangible cultural heritages, including Nha Nhac (royal court music), the Space of Gong Culture in the Central Highlands, Quan Ho (love duets), Ca tru (ceremonial singing) and Hung King worshipping rituals. In 2016, Vietnam summited the dossier on “the belief of the Mother Goddess of Three Realms worship by Vietnamese” for UNESCO recognition.

Mother Goddess worship is a traditional practice in Vietnam with a long history, having stood the test of social changes. The belief in Mother Goddess worship reflects people’s desire for health, wealth and fortune. The practice rituals meet belief-related needs by people in their daily life and have been closely associated with historical and cultural figures, such as Lieu Hanh, Au Co, Vuong Mau (legendary Mother of Saint Giong).

The practitioners are comprised of temple guardians, ritual priests, spirit mediums, mediums’ assistants, musicians who perform the songs for the spirits, disciples and lay adherents who share the same beliefs in the spiritual power, supernatural strength and protection of the Mother Goddess spirit pantheon. All of these practitioners form groups who worship together, take part in traditional festivals and perform spirit possession rituals at temples and palaces dedicated to Mother Goddesses. The folk belief shows the respect of children towards their mothers while reflecting the UNESCO spirit of preserving cultural and religious diversity.

If you interest this post, please view: Indochina travel Vietnam to get more detail information

As a type of folk arts, Len Dong ritual is a spiritual performance

The reincarnatation of Goddess of Mountain & Forest Performance

The reincarnatation of General “Ong Muoi“ Performance

Four Palace Show

Four Palaces is created by Viet Theatre, is the 1st performance to bring Hau Dong ceremony of the Viet Belief on Mother Goddesses (Dao Mau) which is now recognized by UNESCO as the world’s Intangible Cultural Heritage to the stage. Four Palaces show honors the magnificence, sophistication of the art in Dao Mau to introduce to the international audiences in Hanoi. The show is an exciting and spiritual journey that combines the effects of sound, light, and unique visuals during the 45-minute performance. The Four Palaces Show has three parts:

  • The Reincarnation of the Second Lady of the Highland
  • The Reincarnation of the Tenth Prince
  • The Reincarnation of the Little Princess of Highlands

Schedule: Every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday

Duration: 45 minutes

Location: City centre – Cong Nhan Theatre (Add: 42 Trang Tien Street, Hanoi)

Enjoy the show.

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I have arrived in Myanmar on a very auspicious date, the Burmese new year, or Thingyan, the most celebrated festival in the country. Thingyan, Myanmar Water Festival, takes place toward the end of the hot, dry season and ushers in the Myanmar New Year. This festival is also celebrated in neighboring Theravada Buddhist countries; Songkran in Thailand and Laos, Chaul Chnam Thmey in Cambodia. Taking place from April 13 to 16 each year, the Buddhist festival of Thingyan is celebrated over four to five days, culminating on the Lunar New Year Day.

Commonly referred to as the Water Festival, Maha Thingyan allows people to celebrate the Burmese New Year. Despite this, Maha Thingyan is observed in mid-April on the Gregorian calendar. While the Water Festival is a Buddhist event, the Burmese government has made it a legal public holiday. This ensures that many Burmese citizens have the opportunity to enjoy the Water Festival. Maha Thingyan is a time for happiness and friendly attitudes.

Thinngyan is the most unique and colourful with the merriest occasion in Myanmar. Standing on bamboo stages erected along the streets, people splash water on passersby. Powerful water pipes douse people driving by in jeeps and trucks. The people throwing water each other since the Myanmar believe that Thinngyan water has the power to cleanse the evil and sins of the old year. The water symbolizes the washing away of the previous year’s bad luck and sins. On New Year’s Day itself, all the water-throwing ends. This day is celebrated by releasing captive fish and birds as acts of merit, and special feasts are held for monks.

Thingyan Celebrations:
Thingyan Eve: The first Thingyan celebrations begin on the day before the Water Festival. Thingyan Eve, or A-Kyo Nei, is a time for observing Buddhist beliefs.

Fasting: Many Buddhists observe Thingyan Eve through fasting. People who decide to fast for Thingyan Eve usually eat a single basic meal prior to noon. This meal is often very bland.

Observing the Eight Precepts: During Thingyan Eve, Buddhists are expected to observe the Eight Precepts of Buddhism. These Eight Precepts are similar to the Five Precepts. While observing the Eight Precepts, Buddhists must do the following: Refrain from killing living creatures, Refrain from stealing, Refrain from sexual activity, Refrain from lying or using incorrect speech, Refrain from using alcohol or drugs, Refrain from seeking entertainment, Refrain from eating during fasting periods, Refrain from sleeping on high places

Offerings to Monks: Many people in Myanmar celebrate Thingyan Eve by visiting a Buddhist temple. When visiting these temples, it is considered proper to leave an offering of green coconuts and bananas. These kinds of offerings usually consist of a single green coconut surrounded by a circle of bananas.

Washing the Buddha: Burmese people will also wash Buddha statues with sacred water that has been scented with flower extract. When washing Buddha statues, people start at the top by drizzling water over the head.

Night Celebrations: After the religious formalities of Thingyan Eve have been observed, Burmese people begin to relax and enjoy themselves. There are many lively celebrations that occur during the night of Thingyan Eve.

Music, Song, and Dance: While the Eight Precepts prohibit Buddhists from enjoying entertainment of any kind during the daytime, people are allowed to party to their hearts’ content as soon as night arrives. In nearly every village, city, and town in Myanmar, large stages are erected for the purpose of enjoying entertainment. These stages are made of wood and elaborately decorated with papier-mache and paint. Woman will dance to classical and contemporary music while wearing flower skirts. In addition to these flower skirts, Burmese women often wear padauck blossoms in their hair. The padauck blossom is also commonly referred to as the Thingyan flower due to its rarity and use during Maha Thingyan.

Parade of Locals: After enjoying live music and dancing, people celebrating Maha Thingyan parade the streets of their town or city while enjoying alcohol and the company of their friends and family members. These parades often consist of vehicles and decorated floats. Gyat, a form of Burmese rap, is commonly performed during these parades. Gyat is fairly controversial because it is a popular way of expressing distaste for social and political issues through music.

Water Festival Celebrations
Thinngyan water festival time is the merriest time for Myanmar young and old. Almost the whole populations are in the most joyous mood; roam around the city in cars or on foot to throwing and splashing water each other. Children use water pistols to drench their friends, relatives, and anyone else in range – only monks and the elderly are safe.
The primary event of Maha Thingyan is the Water Festival. This huge event is meant to celebrate the descent of Thagyamin, a celestial Buddhist figure, to Earth. The beginning of the Water Festival, or A-Kya Nei, is marked with the firing of a water cannon into a public area. While the cannon is fired, people run out to collect the water with pots and buckets. The collected water is then poured over the ground. This is followed by a short prayer. Just like Thingyan Eve, these religious rituals are followed by festive activities. Water throwing with toy guns, balloons, and hoses takes place in many areas of Myanmar.

If you are planning to travel Myanmar, Thingyan is undoubtedly the best time of the year to visit. Besides the fun-filled activities and the festive atmosphere, you’ll be sure to meet lots of Burmese, who are always friendly saying “Mingalabar”

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Colorful Bangkok

Colorful Bangkok

Great food, superb shopping and a vibrant culture make the Thai capital an ideal gateway for a journey to South-East Asia. Bangkok is a huge hub for Southeast Asia and is also an excellent place to kick off a trip. It’s a big bustling city and it’s best to see.

You could spend a lot more time exploring the city but I visited this capital many times before so 3 days in Bangkok is a good length of time for my visit. Each time I come  back I fall deeper and deeper in love with this amazing city.

For more information, you can click: Indochina tours Thailand

Beneath the dust and chaos, Bangkok is packed with things to do and places to see. From street-side restaurants with plastic chairs and road-side amulet stalls to top-notch restaurants and the world’s hippest rooftop bars. From exploring ancient temples to taking a  tuk-tuk tour through the Bangkok night. Bangkok has it all and there is never a dull moment when you hit the streets of this city.

Tuk Tuk is popular transportation in Bangkok

Tuk Tuk is popular transportation in Bangkok

Here is my sharing for 48 hours itinerary with the highlights of what to do in Bangkok.

Saturday: Temples and Historic Sites

Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) – Wat Pho (Gigantic reclining Buddha) and Wat Arun – Temple of the Dawn.

Buddhism is the national religion and is practised by nine out of 10 Thais, who pay their respects at shrines at all times of day. The former home of the monarch, the Grand Palace is located right beside the architectural wonder that is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. You must be properly dressed before being allowed entry to the temple. Wear shirts with sleeves, long pants or skirts and shoes. So no tank tops! If you’re wearing sandals or flip-flops you must wear socks, so no bare feet. If you show up at the front gate improperly dressed, there is a booth near the entry that provides clothes to cover you up properly. You must leave your passport or credit card as security. Shoes should be removed before entering the main chapel. Also, when sitting in front of a Buddha image, remember to tuck your feet behind you to avoid the very offensive pose of pointing your feet towards Buddha.

From Grand Palace, walk about 10 minutes to Wat Pho, the gigantic reclining Buddha is amazingly beautiful covered in gold leaf and mother-of-pearl ornaments inlaid in his feet. Wat Pho is also Thailand’s headquarter for the teaching of traditional Thai medicine and Thai massage. After this walk around Grand Palace and Wat Pho, nothing beats a relaxing head or foot massage.

Then it is time to cross the river, so jump on a cross-river ferry from No. 8 Tha Tien to Wat Arun pier. On your way to the Grand Palace and Wat PhraKaew you passed this temple with the ferry, so you already know that it is spectacular and atmospheric with its steep piers reaching up in the sky. It is at its most impressive after dark when it is lit up and looks a bit magical and like a fairytale. Unfortunately, it closes before nightfall. This is my favourite temple in Bangkok.

In the late afternoon, take a ride to the Asiatique-The Riverfront, a new shopping and entertainment venue on the Chao Phraya River. I love this place very much. You can go shopping, enjoy a cocktail to see sunset on the river bank or have a great dinner with live music.

Grand Palace in Bangkok

Grand Palace in Bangkok

Wat Pho

Wat Pho

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Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Sunset on the riverbank

Sunset on the riverbank

Asiatique Market & Shopping Mall

Asiatique Market & Shopping Mall

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  1. Sunday: Modern Bangkok and Weekend Shopping

After this delicious breakfast and it’s time to head on to the famous and vibrant China Town that is located by the river. Go for a walk through the narrow streets and beautiful buildings in China Town, shop Chinese green tea and other Chinese souvenirs, and just watch the life on the streets. (How to get there: It is best to take a taxi or tuk-tuk to China Town – Estimated time: 1-2 hour)

Next stop is Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok. It has reached a landmark status as a must-see place for my visit all the time. Chatuchak Weekend market is probably the biggest weekend market in the world. Here you will find just about anything you can imagine, both useful and not so useful stuff.

If you are not in Bangkok a Saturday or Sunday, it is time to experience the modern side of Bangkok and visit the Siam area to go shopping. Take the sky train to Siam station or Chit Lom station. Siam is a shopping bonanza and we love it. You can spend hours and hours exploring the four big shopping centers that are located next to each other in the Siam area: Central World (has an ice skating rink at ground floor), Siam Paragon (has South East Asia’s biggest aquarium, Siam Ocean World at base level and the Exotic Thai store on 4th floor – perfect for gifts and souvenirs), Siam Center, Siam Discovery (has Bangkok’s Madame Tussauds on 6th floor), MBK.

China Town in Bangkok

China Town in Bangkok

Siam Shopping Center

Siam Shopping Center

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Modern Bangkok

Modern Bangkok

Modern Bangkok

Modern Bangkok

Chatuchak Weekend Market

Chatuchak Weekend Market

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There you go, this itinerary packed with what we consider it the “heart” of Bangkok. Two days is in our opinion not enough time to spend in this magnificent city. Four or five days are what I would recommend, then you have time to really enjoy yourself and your time in Bangkok and also have some time to relax.

Hope you enjoy this city as much as I do!

Photos credit by Lucas.

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Ritual of Pouring Water on the Bodhi Tree (Bo Tree)

All the pagodas throughout the country celebrate on Full Moon Day of Kason. This ritual commemorates the date 2500 years ago when the Buddha gained enlightenment while mediation under a Bodhi tree. Pilgrims pour water on this tree in pagoda compounds to keep them fresh in the summer heat of May.

As the month of kason is at the middle of the hot reason, the earth is dry and people pour water at the Maha-Bodhi tree to make sure it does not die of drought during the hot summer. This has become an integral part of Myanmar culture and on every full-moon day of kason, the Buddhist people would march in a grand procession to the Bodhi tree or to the pagodas to pour scented water.

For further interest, Please follow our relevant topics at: Indochina travel

Ritual of Pouring Water on the Bodhi Tree (Bo Tree)

There are so many banyan tress in various regions of Myanmar. The majestic trees give cool shade and grandeur as well as dignity. grace and charm. Water pouring ceremony to the Bodhi tree in the month of Kason had been performed successively since the time of Myanmar monarchs to the present day. The performance of the ceremony is supportive not only to the religion and tradition but also to keeping trees green and lush.

  • Date:   During May
  • Location: Countrywide
Ritual of Pouring Water on the Bodhi Tree (Bo Tree)

Ritual of Pouring Water on the Bodhi Tree (Bo Tree)

Pakokku Thiho Shin Pagoda Festival

The weather in June may not support for outdoor activities through the country, even festivals. Only the biggest one – Pakokku Thiho Shin Pagoda Festival takes place in Pakkoku, Central Myanmar. Pakokku is an old traditional town on the western bank of the Ayeyarwadt river. This pagoda festival is the most important for all towns west of the Ayeyarwady and produce from the region.

Pakokku Thiho Shin Pagoda

Pakokku Thiho Shin Pagoda

This festival is an occasion for farming communities in the Pakokku to come together and celebrate the end of the harvest season. Pakokku is the old town on the western bank of Ayeyawady River. This is the most important festival of the land. The festival is also occurred with a local market selling local specialties such as fried chili, tobacco, fiber bags. This is also areas growing the best quality of Tanakha, the plant to make traditional skin-protected cosmetic of Burmese people. Red robed Buddhist monks will collect alms from local people and attendees in the festival. All farmers and merchants will donate portion of their profits to the temple.

  • Date: from 8th Nayon month
  • Duration: 15 days
  • Location: Pakokku, central Myanmar

Waso Festival

The Waso festival is annually held on the full moon of Waso throughout the country. The festival commemorates the time when the Budha gave his first sermon, to five months. Pilgrims throughout the country gather wild flowers to offer at pagodas, and offer new robes to monks. The Buddhist Lent period is from the full moon of Waso until the full moon of Thadingyut.

During the Waso festival, Buddhist monks are not allowed to go outside overnight or longer and they have to stay at their monasteries. Often, monks begin their Lenten days on the full moon day of the fourth month of the Myanmar calendar and ends on the full moon day of Thadingyut, the seventh month of the Myanmar calendar. It lasts for three month in total.

The Waso festival is annually held on the full moon of Waso throughout the country

The Waso festival is annually held on the full moon of Waso throughout the country

The Waso festival is annually held on the full moon of Waso throughout the country

It is said in history that a group of monks set out on a journey to pay their respects to the Buddha in the agricultural season. Because many people complained that the monks walked across cultivated fields and destroyed the crops, the Lord passed a law to be followed by monks: no monk shall make a journey lasting a night or longer during the three monks of the monsoon rains. That rains retreat is the Buddhist Lent.

Following the law, monks spend more time and energy to the propagation of the Buddha’s teachings and the practice, that is, meditation, of the doctrine during that period. Laymen and laywomen try to gian merit through offering robes, alms and other essentials to the Sangha, it was a special donation to the monks during the Lent of absolute devotion to meditation. This annual occasion is called “Waso-pwe”, occasion of offering essentials to the Sangha, or “Waso-thingan-katlupwe”, occasion of offering robes to the Sangha.

From this time on, Buddhist experience three months by not drinking alcohol, making donation ceremonies, reciting the Buddhist chant, keeping precepts and practicing meditation. Morever,marriage and changing of accommodation during the period are not encouraged.

  • Date:   July (15th day of 04th Burmese month)
  • Location: Countrywide
Myanmar Waso Festival (or) Lenten Season

Myanmar Waso Festival (or) Lenten Season

Taung Pyone Nat ( Spirit ) Festival

There are number of annual Nat festivals celebrated in Myanmar, the Nats of the region accordingly. Taungpyone festival is the most attractive and important in a village near Mandalay. Annual festival is held in September or August according to the Myanmar Lunar calendar. The believers honour the two Taung Pyone brothers, Min Gyi and Min  Galay. In Buddhist lore, spirits or nats exit in many forms such as celestials or guardians of the faith, cities or villages, or even for each individual. The pantheon of 37 spirits worshipped by semi-animists are also called Nat but of a different kind. Most of 37 spirits met violent deaths as humans and by strong emotions of bitterness or anger could not pass through to their next life but remain in limbo. But rituals worship them in believing that they will be blessed and they could bring more wealth and good fortune to their daily life.

Taung Pyone Nat ( Spirit ) Festival

Taung Pyone Nat ( Spirit ) Festival

This village is known among Myanmar people thanks to the Taung Pyone Festival, which is the most famous festival of Nats (spirits) in the country. This is the festival where people are allowed to make fun of each other but not allowed to get angry or take the joke as serious for all visitors are expected to smile with joy and fun. All the Nat mediums or clairvoyance and those who believe and worship Nat’s gather in the village. The usually quiet village of Taung Payone becomes very crowded for the time of the festival with all the visitors coming to join the celebrations by car, train or on foot.

The village itself is a pleasant place to be. The beautiful landscape opens the view on mountains covered with palm trees. You can enjoy your stay in a traditional village hut fully made from a palm stem and leaves. Obviously the huts don’t have usual facilities – both showers and toilets are outside. So you will definitely have an interesting outdoor shower experience. Don’t forget to bring some extra longyi which will be necessary for the bathing. During the festival you can find many shops selling traditional crafts – handmade necklaces, bracelets, different children’s toys, snacks, local products.

Series of 37 Nat statues on the stands are offered food and flowers, but not pork products, cash and alcohol. The mediums entertain the crowds with Nat dance with the traditional Nat music and performance during night and day. The whole area is occupied with circus and cultural dances, music and magic shows, fortune tellers and tattoo shops. Thousands of people are visiting the Nats Pavilions to consult a medium for their future prospects and fortunes.

  • Date:   During August
  • Location: Taungyone, Mandalay Division
This is the festival where people are allowed to make fun of each other but not allowed to get angry or take the joke as serious for all visitors are expected to smile with joy and fun.

This is the festival where people are allowed to make fun of each other but not allowed to get angry or take the joke as serious for all visitors are expected to smile with joy and fun.

Manuha Pagoda Festival

Manuha Pagoda Festival is held annually one day before the Full Moon Day of Tawtalin. Depending on the Lunar Calendar. the festival is held in end of September or start of October. Manuha Pagoda Festival is celebrated for three consecutive days.

During two days festival, pretty village girls dressed in their best parade with trays of fruit and cakes to offer at the pagoda. During the afternoon, young men parade larger than life papier mache figures they have made of heroes, celestials and animals. At night, they put on dances and plays. The next morning at dawn, they offer foods at the shrine and also to the monks.

The parade of colourful paper mache figures roam around the city during the festival. The locals create colorful and beautiful decorations of images such as the Manuha King himself. tigers. cows. elephants. horses. and even some stars of today. The number of representation varies up to hundred. The parade goes on until the end of the day.

Locals and foreign visitors enjoy the sight of the colorful papier-mâché figures and also the lifestyle of the Bagan locals. There are other entertainments such as Zat Pwe and Anyeint at the night time. Villagers near and far never miss this opportunity of participating the Manuha Festival.

  • Date:   During September
  • Location: Bagan
The pretty village girls dressed in their best parade with trays of fruit and cakes to offer at the pagoda.

The pretty village girls dressed in their best parade with trays of fruit and cakes to offer at the pagoda.

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Dong Da Hillock Festival takes place annually on the 5th of the Lunar New Year in Hanoi. This festival is organized in memory of the King Quang Trung’s great merit – the national hero in the history of anti – Invaders. Travel Indochina Vietnam

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The statue of King Quang Trung in Dong Da Hillock

Dong Da festival in Hanoi

Dong Da now is also the name of the biggest district of Hanoi capital. Two centuries ago, Dong Da was a bloody battlefield where a farmer-Nguyen Hue with his brothers defeated 200,000 soldiers of the Qing coal invading army. Dong Da Hill became a glorious historical site of the Vietnamese nation. After, Nguyen Hue became King Quang Trung and one of the most famous national heroes in our history.

In the early morning of the 5th day, a historical event for the Procession commences at Khuong Thuong’s celebration and ends at Dong Da Hill. The Procession includes flags, a processional parasol, palanquins with a variety of colors, and the sounds of gongs and drums. In the festival there are a lot of games representing martial spirit. Among them, the Procession of ‘Thang Long fire dragon’ is the most interesting activities.

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Colorful Performances of dragon dance in Dong Da Hillock Festival

The main activity of this festival is the performance of young man recounting a part of the whole period of the war. the victory of King Quang Trung. The young man living at Khuong Thuong village and Dong Quang village will braid straw into shape the big dragon and decorated with areca sheath and paper mache. After that, a group of man with colorful traditional dress will perform martial arts with nunchakus and wooden sticks. This group will go around the fire dragon and show their martial skills. The mixture of heavy sound of big drums and the voice of young man performing martial arts make the atmosphere of festival be more excited and raise the patriotism.

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Young men in colorful dress are performing around “Thang Long Fire Dragon” – A symbol of victory

After the solemn ceremony, you can see traditional games and folk art performances such as lion dancing, dragon dancing, wrestling, human chess, and cock fighting. These traditional games are the most popular in Vietnamese festival. They are always attractive for many both of local people and tourists. You can find them not only on Dong Da Hillock Festival bus also on other big festival in our country. However, on Dong Da Hillock Festival these games will be performed with more colorful decorations and traditional dress. One more very unique thing of this festival which makes it be different from others is that there are many local women join in traditional games such as wrestling or human chess. These games are usually played by men on the other festival.

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Human chess in this festival is more colorful than others and there are many young women join in

Nowadays, this festival is not only for local people who living in Dong Da District but also for tourist from all over the world. Vietnamese government has recognized this festival as a national festival since 1954. Annually, senior officials of government will visit this festival and pray for a new year of country with well-being and the stable development.

Today, for Hanoi people, visiting Dong Da Hillock Festival is indispensable in the first days of the Lunar New Year. If you travel to Hanoi in our Lunar New Year, you should visit this festival to see another side of Hanoi which is more cultural and historical. Moreover, Dong Da Hillock is not far away from Old Quarter and you can visit it by yourself easily.

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One of Hanoi’s most common sights is that of streets packed with scooters, bicycles and cars swarming around pedestrians like a school of fish. Then there are the many sidewalk vendors and people simply out for a stroll and the popular Old Quarter is no exception so walking around this district is distinct from a leisurely stroll in the park. Visitors have no choice but to face the traffic in the local style but the experience of exploring the historical area is a must-do and truly well worth it.

There are the many sidewalk vendors and people simply out for a stroll and the popular Old Quarter is no exception so walking around this district is distinct from a leisurely stroll in the park. Visitors have no choice but to face the traffic in the local style but the experience of exploring the historical area is a must-do and truly well worth it.

A colleague  reminds me about a video named “36 hours in Hanoi” from New York Times and I realize that I have not written much about my beloved city. I would like to talk about my Hanoi, the values of cultural and living of more than 1,000 year city.

Unlike the younger Saigon (Ho Chi Minh city), Hanoi is the city with very old established history. For me Hanoi is like a living body which is beautiful but whose form is shaped by the variability of the times. Hanoi is where layers of era and history, coming and going, cascade like the geological stratum of time. Looking at the signs of fracture and remnants of an old Hanoi mixed with the symbols and imagines of the modern age makes me feel like I am excavating through historic layers of the metropolis. Indochina tours Vietnam

So I think of Hanoi as a living museum that embodies the complete archive of past memories and assimilates the following and changing rhythms of contemporary life.  Hanoi is changing fast, but with its tree-lined lanes, graceful old architecture, a flourishing arts scene and sophisticated night life, the city is having its moment.

In recent years, thanks to a new pride injected by 1,000th-birthday celebrations in 2010, an influx of entrepreneurial Vietnamese returnees, expats and a creative Internet-enabled population, the city’s pulse has quickened. With a number of construction projects threatening older neighborhoods, and an exodus of residents from the city to suburbs like West Lake, Hanoi is changing fast. But right now, it feels poised over a sweet spot, its tree-lined lanes and graceful old architecture, traditional culture and fantastic street food complemented by a contemporary arts scene that’s managed to survive bouts of censorship, idiosyncratic boutiques and increasingly sophisticated dining and night life.

Saint Joseph Cathedral, located at 40 Nha Chung street, Hanoi, is a Roman Catholic cathedral with neo- gothic style, which was built about 120 years ago

Saint Joseph Cathedral, located at 40 Nha Chung street, Hanoi, is a Roman Catholic cathedral with neo- gothic style, which was built about 120 years ago

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Street Foods is available every street in the Old Quarter

A small lane in the Old Quarter

A small lane in the Old Quarter

The Long Bien Bridge was constructed from 1989 to 1902 during French’s occupation of the country which was formerly named Paul Doumer by the French, but Vietnamese have called it Long Bien or Cai River Bridge for a long time, and Long Bien becomes the most popular name of the bridge. Originally, Long Bien had 19 spans and it was the first steel bridge across Red river in Hanoi, and one of four greatest bridges in the world at the time it was built.

The Long Bien Bridge was constructed from 1989 to 1902 during French’s occupation of the country which was formerly named Paul Doumer by the French, but Vietnamese have called it Long Bien or Cai River Bridge for a long time, and Long Bien becomes the most popular name of the bridge. Originally, Long Bien had 19 spans and it was the first steel bridge across Red river in Hanoi, and one of four greatest bridges in the world at the time it was built.

If you are about to visit Hanoi for a few days, it is very likely that you will reside somewhere near Hoan Kiem Lake. The lake is considered the center of Hanoi, not only physically but also symbolically. In fact, the more you spend time learning about the lake, the more special it becomes.

If you are about to visit Hanoi for a few days, it is very likely that you will reside somewhere near Hoan Kiem Lake. The lake is considered the center of Hanoi, not only physically but also symbolically. In fact, the more you spend time learning about the lake, the more special it becomes.

Hoan Kiem lake in the early morning

Hoan Kiem lake in the early morning

Sunset on the biggest lake of Hanoi - Ho Tay (West Lake)

Sunset on the biggest lake of Hanoi – Ho Tay (West Lake)

Ho Chi Minh mausoleum

Ho Chi Minh mausoleum and Ba Dinh square

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Photo credit: Cao Anh Tuan, Nhat Nam

P/s: Video of “36 Hours in Hanoi”: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/02/travel/things-to-do-in-36-hours-in-hanoi.html?_r=0

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If you are finding a place in Vietnam to spend a few days at a beautiful beach and you are tired of crowded Halong Bay or Nha Trang or not interested in a plain beach in Vung Tau, then Phu Quoc Island will be a great option for you.

Lately, Phu Quoc island is designated as a special economic zone and it is the only place in vietnam where foreign travelers are eligible for a 30 day visa exemption. In order to be eligible for the exemption,all visitors must fly from an international destination and arrive directly or indirectly (via transit) to Phu Quoc. Their stay cannot exceed 30 days and they must depart Phu Quoc, either directly or indirectly (via transit), to an international destination. Under this policy, visitors are not allowed to enter mainland Vietnam nor any island part of Vietnam outside of Phu Quoc District (e.g. Nam Du. Hai Toc. con Dao. etc). The 30 day visa exemption also applies to those traveling with authorized tour groups and international cruise ships that will dock at Phu Quoc.

Phu Quoc info

General information about Phu Quoc Island (Source: http://www.phuquocislandguide.com)

So, when to go to Phu Quoc? There are two main season on this island – Rain season will start from April to September and Dry season starts from October to next March. However, you can visit this island at any season because the average temperature is around 27 degree and the rain doesn’t last long.

Now, how do we get to this island?

The easiest way is taking a flight, from your home or you can choose many domestic flights from Hanoi, Hue, Danang, Cam Ranh, Ho Chi Minh and Can Tho to get on this island. There are more flights from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, while from other city, there is only one flight and on some days, it will not be available.

Another way is cruising from Mekong Delta then take a speedboat (Superdong) from Rach Gia or Ha Tien Pier to get to Phu Quoc. A popular itinerary is we start from Ho Chi Minh city, then drive to Can Tho or Cai Be town to embark your cruise in there. You can have 1 or 2 nights on boat then after the cruise, they will take you to Rach Gia and help you get on the speedboat.

Superdong is the only speedboat to Phu Quoc and their services is pretty good. The boat is nice with big seat. The trip is a bit bumping and lasts for 2 and a half hours but this will give you an interesting experience. Especially, if you want to have time to do snorkeling in Phu Quoc, a speedboat will be a good solution than wait for next day to take a flight back to mainland.

In my next post, we will find out what is must do on this beautiful island and more!

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